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The Religion of the Ancient Celts

Page: 41

Lug is associated with Manannan, from whose land he comes to assist the Tuatha Déa against the Fomorians. His appearance was that of the sun, and by this brilliant warrior's {90} prowess the hosts were utterly defeated. This version, found in The Children of Tuirenn, differs from the account in the story of Mag-tured. Here Lug arrives at the gates of Tara and offers his services as a craftsman. Each offer is refused, until he proclaims himself "the man of each and every art," or samildánach, "possessing many arts." Nuada resigns his throne to him for thirteen days, and Lug passes in review the various craftsmen (i.e. the gods), and though they try to prevent such a marvellous person risking himself in fight, he escapes, heads the warriors, and sings his war-song. Balor, the evil-eyed, he slays with a sling-stone, and his death decided the day against the Fomorians. In this account Lug samildánach is a patron of the divine patrons of crafts; in other words, he is superior to a whole group of gods. He was also inventor of draughts, ball-play, and horsemanship. But, as M. D'Arbois shows, samildánach is the equivalent of "inventor of all arts," applied by Cæsar to the Gallo-Roman Mercury, who is thus an equivalent of Lug. This is attested on other grounds. As Lug's name appears in Irish Louth (Lug-magh) and in British Lugu-vallum, near Hadrian's Wall, so in Gaul the names Lugudunum (Lyons), Lugudiacus, and Lugselva ("devoted to Lugus") show that a god Lugus was worshipped there. A Gaulish feast of Lugus in August—the month of Lug's festival in Ireland—was perhaps superseded by one in honour of Augustus. No dedication to Lugus has yet been found, but images of and inscriptions to Mercury abound at Lugudunum Convenarum. As there were three Brigits, {91} so there may have been several forms of Lugus, and two dedications to the Lugoves have been found in Spain and Switzerland, one of them inscribed by the shoemakers of Uxama.317 Thus the Lugoves may have been multiplied forms of Lugus or Lugovos, "a hero," the meaning given to "Lug" by O'Davoren. Shoe-making was not one of the arts professed by Lug, but Professor Rh[^y]s recalls the fact that the Welsh Lleu, whom he equates with Lug, disguised himself as a shoemaker. Lugus, besides being a mighty hero, was a great Celtic culture-god, superior to all other culture divinities.

The euhemerists assigned a definite date to Lug's death, but side by side with this the memory of his divinity prevailed, and he appears as the father and helper of Cúchulainn, who was possibly a rebirth of the god. His high position appears in the fact that the Gaulish assembly at Lugudunum was held in his honour, like the festival of Lugnasad in Ireland. Craftsmen brought their wares to sell at this festival of the god of crafts, while it may also have been a harvest festival.321 Whether it was a strictly solar feast is doubtful, though Professor Rh[^y]s and others insist that Lug is a sun-god. The name of the Welsh Lleu, "light," is equated with Lug, and the same meaning assigned to the latter.322 This equation has been contested and is doubtful, Lugus probably meaning "hero."323 Still the sun-like traits ascribed to Lug before Mag-tured suggest that he was a sun-god, and solar gods elsewhere, e.g. the Polynesian Maui, are culture-gods as well. But it should be remembered that Lug is {92} not associated with the true solar festivals of Beltane and Midsummer.

While our knowledge of the Tuatha Dé Danann is based upon a series of mythic tales and other records, that of the gods of the continental Celts, apart from a few notices in classical authors and elsewhere, comes from inscriptions. But as far as can be judged, though the names of the two groups seldom coincide, their functions must have been much alike, and their origins certainly the same. The Tuatha Dé Danann were nature divinities of growth, light, agriculture—their symbols and possessions suggesting fertility, e.g. the cauldron. They were divinities of culture and crafts, and of war. There must have been many other gods in Ireland than those described here, while some of those may not have been worshipped all over Ireland. Generally speaking, there were many local gods in Gaul with similar functions but different names, and this may have been true of Ireland. Perhaps the different names given to Dagda, Manannan, and others were simply names of similar local gods, one of whom became prominent, and attracted to himself the names of the others. So, too, the identity of Danu and Brigit might be explained, or the fact that there were three Brigits. We read also in the texts of the god of Connaught, or of Ulster, and these were apparently regional divinities, or of "the god of Druidism"—perhaps a god worshipped specially by Druids. The remote origin of some of these divinities may be sought in the primitive cult of the Earth personified as a fertile being, and in that of vegetation and corn-spirits, and the vague spirits of nature in all its aspects. Some of these still continued to be worshipped when the greater gods had been evolved. Though animal worship was not lacking in Ireland, divinities who are anthropomorphic forms of earlier animal-gods are less in {93} evidence than on the Continent. The divinities of culture, crafts, and war, and of departments of nature, must have slowly assumed the definite personality assigned them in Irish religion. But, doubtless, they already possessed that before the Goidels reached Ireland. Strictly speaking, the underground domain assigned later to the Tuatha Dé Danann belongs only to such of them as were associated with fertility. But in course of time most of the group, as underground dwellers, were connected with growth and increase. These could be blighted by their enemies, or they themselves could withhold them when their worshippers offended them.325


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